Writing to Jrs. and Srs.

In the mailbag, the topic of salutations in letters comes up at least a few times a week. Recently Chris wrote to ask a question I had not heard before:

If a person’s full name ends in Jr. or Sr., should I format it as “Dear Bob Smith, Sr.:” or “Dear Bob Smith, Sr:” (without the period/full stop after Sr)?

The answer: According to the rules of letter etiquette, neither is correct.

Graphic explaining how to address people with names ending in Jr. or Sr. by stating that in a greeting abbreviated terms are not used after a name and that in other cases a colon can be used after a period

In a greeting, we do not use Jr., Sr., M.D., Esq., or other abbreviated terms after the name. Also, generally we do not use both the first and last name. So in Chris’s example, the correct salutation is:

Formal:     Dear Mr. Smith:

Informal:   Dear Bob:

The other issue Chris’s question raises is whether we can use a period/full stop before a colon. Yes, we can. Example:

Here is what will happen at 6 p.m.:

I cannot think of any situation in which a salutation would end with a period/full stop, however. That is why I used a sentence as an example.

Related: Learn how to correctly capitalize around colons here.

Chris, I hope this answer helps.

Other search spellings: puncutation, slautuation, slautation, saluation.

Posted by Avatar photo
By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

13 comments on “Writing to Jrs. and Srs.”

  • A related question: Why the comma between the last name and Jr. or Sr.? Seems to me that the Jr. or Sr. is a restrictive modifier; the comma denotes just the opposite: a non-restrictive modifier. (Bryan Garner addresses this question in Garner’s Modern American Usage, p. 538.)

  • Ray, you are right. I used the form Chris used in the original question. The norm these days is to leave out the comma but to respect individual preferences. Of course, respecting preferences means using the comma before (and after) “Jr.” or “Sr.” if the individual uses it.

    I am very impressed with your knowledge of these fine details!


  • Lynn,

    My husband is a Junior so if he’s typing out his full name (Charles H. Walkling, Jr.)should he use the comma or is it really a matter of personal preference? Also I’ve noticed that many people do not use the period after, either. Again, a matter of preference?


    Terry (female!)

  • Hi, Terry. Please see the comment just above yours.

    As for the period, I am unaware of any leeway. Like Mr., Mrs., etc., the abbreviation has a period.

  • What is the correct way to list a married couple using both of their first names when the man is a Jr. or Sr.?
    Such as Mr. John Smith, Jr. and his wife Mrs. Mary Smith. Is it Mr. John, Jr. & Mrs. Mary Smith or is it Mr. John & Mrs. Mary Smith, Jr.?

  • When you say “list,” I’m not sure how you are going to list the names. That may make a difference. For a letter, you would use “Mr. and Mrs. John Smith Jr.” and “Dear Mr. and Mrs. Smith.”

  • How do I write the Jr. or Sr.if the family name comes first please? I want to be clarified.

  • Hi, Victoria. Please give an example of what you want to write.

    Perhaps you are referring to an alphabetical list:

    Smith, John, Jr.
    Velasquez, Juan C., Sr.

    If those examples are not helpful, please write again.

  • How do I punctuate a letter or email to John Smith, Sr and his son John Smith, Jr in the same letter?
    Dear John Sr and John Jr,
    Dear John and John
    Dear John, Sr. and John, Jr.,

  • My name is UBIRAJARA DE OLIVEIRA COSTA JUNIOR (as in my birth certificate). In Brazil we do not fill in forms with family and given names in separate fields. For this purpose, we usually have one unique field called NOME COMPLETO (= full name). The problem raises when I have to split my name into two different fields, as is the practice in English forms.
    How can I do that? I usually write: FAMILY NAME: DE OLIVEIRA COSTA and GIVEN NAME: UBIRAJARA, JR.
    Is that correct?
    Thanks in advance for any help you can give me.

  • How do I put a married couples name on a certificate when the man is a Jr. Do I write John, Jr. and Mary Smith or John and Mary Smith, Jr.

Comments are closed.